The Impact Of Bipolar Disorder On Memory

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The same was not true in the case of the unipolar participants. In neither case did the duration of their illness seem to affect their performance. In conclusion, the researcher’s hypothesis that both unipolar and bipolar participants would display impairment in memory while controls would not. Their other hypothesis that the participants with bipolar depression would have a great deficit in memory in comparison to the participants with unipolar depression was incorrect. At the end of the article, the researchers conclude, much like in the first article, that this impairment is not about the participants forgetting, but rather about impairment in their learning/encoding.

The final study that we are going to look at in this paper seeks to examine the effects of medication, family history, and duration of illness on both IQ and memory in people with bipolar I disorder. We will only be focusing on the memory portion, as this paper does not pertain to IQ. As this article touches on topics that we have already seen reviewed in the first two articles that we looked at, it should be interesting to see if they replicate the same findings or not.

We will now touch on the methods of this study. The study was conducted over a one-month period of time. It included forty-three participants who were recruited from a “defined catchment area of the South London and Maudsley National Health Service Trust” in which they were receiving treatment. All were considered to have bipolar I disorder. They were assessed in the study at a time when they were either euthymic or in remission. Of the 43 participants, some were taking medications and some were taking more than one medication at a time. The medications that participants were taking are as follows: twenty-two of them were taking antipsychotics, thirty of them were taking mood stabilizers, and eight of them were taking antidepressants. There were no control participants. The participants were assessed using the National Adult Reading Test (in which we will not be discussing the results) and the Wechsler Memory Test III.

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Finally, we will look at the results of this study. To begin with, I will mention that they tested other variables and their effect on memory, but they did not have a significant effect, so I will not be touching on them in this paper. One of these that I will talk about, only because it was mentioned previously in both of the other articles that we looked at, is the number of previous hospitalizations/episodes. In this study, this seemed to have no negative effect on one’s memory. They broke memory up into two categories: general memory and working memory. The results showed that in the case of general memory scores, antipsychotic drugs had a negative impact. These scores also seemed to decrease as the duration of the illness increased. In my opinion, this could be due simply to the aging of the brain. Obviously, with the duration of the illness, time also passes, and age increases. Family history of the illness seemed to have no negative impact on the general memory scores. In the case of the working memory scores, the results showed that participants taking antipsychotic drugs also had lower scores here. However, the duration of illness did not seem to have a negative effect, and neither did family history of the illness. In conclusion, the researchers note that the current use of antipsychotic medication was the most significant finding in that it seemed to have a definite negative impact on memory. A side note that they make is that people with more previous hospitalizations/episodes are also more likely to be on these antipsychotic medications. This would mean that previous hospitalizations/episodes could be an indirect cause to negatively affected memory. Duration of illness was only slightly significant, as it only harmed general memory, but no impact on working memory. Another reason for this, again, could be that people with a longer duration of illness would also be more likely to have had more hospitalizations/episodes. Family history did not show significance in either general or working memory.


The overarching findings within these three articles were inconclusive. None of them replicated in the same way. While the first two articles claimed to find no significant correlation between medication usage and memory, the third article claimed that this was the strongest cause for poor memory for people with bipolar I disorder. The first two articles agree that it is not the deterioration of memories or forgetting that are the cause of a poor memory amongst bipolar people, but rather that the issue lies within their encoding strategies and their ability to effectively learn the information. Family history was not touched on in the first article, however, the second and third articles both discussed it. The third article said that family history had no negative impact on memory, while the third article implied that family history actually had a positive impact on memory. Duration of illness was a topic that all of the articles touched on. The first and second articles said that the duration of the illness seemed to have no negative impact on memory, and the third article said it only had a slight effect on memory. The three articles are in slight agreement that the number of manic/depressive episodes may harm memory. The first two articles agreed that it seemed the more depressive/manic episodes one had lead to a negative effect on their memory. The third article says that this was not a significant finding of theirs, but they imply at the end that their findings of a sign in a negative impact on memory due to medication and the slight significance of a negative impact on memory due to duration of illness may ultimately be caused by the number of episodes a person has had. They note that people who have had more episodes are more likely to be taking medication. I’ve also noted that the slightly significant findings of the duration of illness’ impact could be because people with a longer duration of the illness are more likely to have had more episodes as well.

I will now talk about my opinions on the potential causes of poor memory in bipolar disorder. I do believe that the poor memory seen in bipolar disorder would most certainly be due to the lack of ability in encoding/learning rather than in actually remembering the information. I believe that this evident disorganization within the encoding of a person with bipolar disorder could be more prevalent in a manic state. As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, I can comment on it 1) being extremely difficult to sit still and focus on anything for too long and 2) agree that this energized state affects my own ability to organize new information upon receiving it. However, I, like the bipolar individuals in the first study, am very capable of retaining my disorganized version of the information. I also agree that the number of manic/depressive episodes an individual has had can have an impact on memory. I firmly believe that these episodes take a large toll on the person experiencing them, and this toll can harm many things, including one’s cognition as a whole. I am currently indifferent about my belief about medication harming memory upon reviewing the three studies. I think that it may depend on the type of medication, as well as the different individuals taking it.

Some further research that I would like to see would be more in-depth studies focusing on the impact of medication on memory. We would probably be able to find truer results if it was the main focus of the study, as well as if more people were looking into it. I would also like to see more research on the idea that people with bipolar disorder have an impairment in encoding, specifically while in a manic state. Finally, I would like to see some research on the effect of the number of manic/depressive episodes that an individual experiences on their memory. It was not the primary focus of any of these articles, but it seemed to have at least a slight impact within the results section of each of them.  

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